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Titulary what's this?
Horus Name Horus Sekhemkhet, "Horus, powerful of body"
Nebty Name Djeseti-ankh
Golden Horus Name unknown
Praenomen Sekhemkhet "Powerful in Body"
Nomen Djoser-ti, Iteti
Manetho Tyreis, Tyris, Tosortasis
King Lists Teti, Djoser-Teti, Djoser-ti, Djeser-Teti, Iteti
Alternate Names Horus-Sekhemkhet, Djoser-Teti, Sekhemkhet, Sechemchet, Horus-Sechemchet
Dates what's this?
manetho reigned 19 years
swelim reigned 16 years
turin canon reigned 6 years (again with the biennial cattle counts)
piccione 2667--2660 BCE
egyptsite 2611--2603 BCE
  2649--2643 BCE
krauss 2700-2695 BCE
von beckerath 2645-2638 BCE
malek 2609-2603 BCE
allen 2611-2605 BCE
shaw & nicholson 2648-2640 BCE
Predecessor Netjerikhet Djoser, unknown relationship
Successor Khaba, possibly the same as Sanakhte
Associated People
architect Imhotep
queen Djeseretnebti
Burial Place
Unfinished Step Pyramid at Saqqara
Step Pyramid at Saqqara

Sekhemkhet is relatively unknown -- in fact, he was entirely unknown until his unfinished, buried pyramid in Saqqara was discovered in 1951. Aerial photographs of the area near Djoser's Step Pyramid showed another rectangular enclosure wall under the sands, which contained the remains of another step pyramid.  it is unfinished -- only 1 1/2 steps are completed -- but it would have been an even larger pyramid than Djoser's had it been finished. It was possibly twice as high before work was abandoned, after which the site was used as a quarry for other buildings (as ar many of the monuments in Egypt).

The unfinished state of his pyramid is probably the result of a short reign, which the Turin canon gives to Djoser's successor.  (but again, remember the problem with annual or biannual cattle counts, which makes most of the dates from contemporary sources difficult to interpret).  With so short a time in office, the work on his funerary monuments was stopped when he died. A sealed and empty alabaster sarcophagus was found inside the chambers of the pyramid, but no trace of the mysterious Sekhemkhet was found.

The pyramid itself showed signs of great care and planning in it's design. The ground was carefully leveled and chambers under the foundation of the pyramid (132 storerooms) were connected, and the burial chamber carefully placed directly under the center of the pyramid. The floor in the main corridor leading into the pyramid was made of clay, and revealed hundreds of artifacts when it was excavated. Hundreds of smashed stone bowls, jewelry, and gold work. it is the oldest cache of golden jewelry found in Egypt.

The bowls revealed the inscription of Sekhemkhet -- and name previously unknown. Other inscriptions showed the inscription of Djoser-ti, which was then matched to the king lists as the successor of Djoser and linking the two names.

Of course, the greatest find was the sealed, intact sarcophagus.  The alabaster sarcophagus had no lid -- it was sealed with a sliding panel at the foot, which has been closed and completely sealed. Many people believed it was an un-looted find, and a huge media extravaganza was begun when they planned to open it on 26 June 1954 by the archeologist responsible for the excavations, Zakaria Goneim.. The world press, prominent visitors, and other dignitaries were on-site to see the opening and (hopeful) revelation of the unknown king.

Nothing. It was empty.  It is assumed that the site wa looted in antiquity and the coffin and burial chamber were repaired in the Late kingdom, which had a spurt of restoration work for older monuments.  Zakaria Goneim committed suicide in 1959 -- perhaps out of embarrassment and frustration over his excavation work here.

TO the south of the unfinished pyramid, a small mastaba was found containing a wooden coffin with the body of a young (2-3 year old) child. This led to some speculation about Sekhemkhet, and whether this may have been a son. The only other attestations to this king is a relief of the king (as an adult) found in eh Sinai (Wadi Maghara), shown smiting his enemies with a mace.





Step Pyramid, Saqqara